Go for the burn!

Last week I went to the gym. Twice. It’s something I wasn’t sure about, due to the old image of jocks trying to outdo each other, and testosterone flying around…

How wrong was I? I had a two-part assessment, to see where my fitness level is, and what exercise suits me. The first part was on running, stepping and cycling machines, the second on weight/resistance machines. I really enjoyed both sessions, but the resistance training was superb.

My fitness isn’t too bad, with cycling when I can, football with my grandson (usually an hour of ‘training’ as he calls it…), walking our dog, and trying to be active when possible. I like being outdoors and walking, so it comes fairly easily. I would like a little more definition in my stomach area, as my slighter build shows off my little tummy a bit too well for my liking… The resistance machines are great for this, and I will be having another assessment, which will help set up a programme of exercise for me. I need a plan in these areas, as guidance really helps me on this kind of exercise.

Cycling will be going up a notch too. After much deliberation, running is out, and cycling is in. Cycling is much kinder to my poor old knees, and easier for me to build up distances, as I have a decent base from many years of BMX and MTB riding. I’ve planned out three rides a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a big hill in it that I am determined to conquer. Cycling will form the foundation of my fitness, with gym work balancing out the body.

I’m really looking forwards to this!

Elsa - my trusty road bike
Elsa – my trusty road bike

Gone fishing

Hello again folks, I didn’t realise how long it was since I last posted here. Our business has been working really well, and alongside studying counselling (I passed Level 3, and am now on Level 4…), life has got in the way, but in the best of ways…

So, back to the blog. This weekend I’ve been visiting my dear friends and their children in Hampshire. I shared a house with my friend after his partner left him, and my first wife had left me. We had a true bachelor pad, and life was like an episode of  ‘Men Behaving Badly’ at times, but it was a wonderful time, and we looked out for each other.

Fast forward many years, and we’re still best friends, and I go down to Hampshire to visit when I can… it’s nice being back in a place I loved living and was happy (even with a marriage break-up and depression), happy days.

On Friday, we went fishing. My friend had booked 24 hours of carp fishing at Willow Park Fishery, which I was really looking forwards to. We were up at ‘Sparrow’s Fart’, which meant being at the gates just before 7:00am. We got the kit loaded into the ‘Tackle Taxi’, sorted my rod licence for the day, and headed off to our swim, ‘Pig Pen’. First things first, we got the rods and nets set up,then baited our swim, then pitched our bivvy (sort of an open tent…), before getting bacon and coffee on!

I only caught my first carp last summer, and it was a fantastic buzz. I’m a bit squeamish about handling fish and slimy stuff, but that will change. Back to the weekend… I learnt so much. How to bait a rig, cast long and short, which baits work, how to tie rigs…

The last few weeks have been quite stressful with work and studying, so spending time with friends at the lakes was a wonderful way to unwind. Being in a beautiful setting with good weather was so calming, even with an A road behind us (partially obscured by trees and fences). The sound of heavy traffic was quickly tuned out, as I simply lost myself in being outdoors, relaxing and seeing if we would catch anything. All of the pressure and worries of the last few weeks evaporated, and I was just being. I was completely in the moment. Such a beautiful feeling.

Later, my friend’s wife and kids came to visit us (after school…), which was lovely, as he had not long caught his first fish of the weekend, a beautiful 19lb 7oz carp, so we could all celebrate together. Our fellow angler also joined us after finishing work for the week, and we could relax again, crack open a beer or two and order pizza! (Luxury fishing, I tell you!) As the gates were locked at 7:00pm, a lovely hush descended upon the lakes, and we settled in for the night, hoping for another catch, but it was not to be… Good company, food and conversation made up for it though. I think we all crashed out around 10:00pm, bivvy doors open to the elements, rod alarm lights twinkling in the night. Bliss.

The following morning was bright and breezy. We were up early, and I got breakfast on, plenty of bacon, sausages and eggs on the stove in a BIG pan, whilst I went off to get my rod licence for the day. Walking around the lakes in the early morning was so good. Quiet, peaceful and relaxing, just being around nature. The morning passed peacefully until it was time to pack up. The rods are always the last thing to get packed, and as my friend was bringing his rods in, a swan caught his line around its leg. The swan was distressed but uninjured, as my friend cares for the wildlife above and below the water, and we didn’t leave the lake until we knew the swan was okay. It was funny seeing folks on the other bank run to get their rods out as the swan cruised around!

We wended our weary way home, but returned a little later as we still had some time left on our day tickets. We headed for the small lake so I could practice short casting and hopefully catch a carp before I went home! We had just baited up with sweetcorn and put some feed out to attract the fish, when I got my first bite! It was great learning how to bring the fish in safely, and the feeling was fantastic as I saw my friend net my first carp of the day, such a buzz. I didn’t get a photo of my first catch, as it was quite small, but I was so proud of myself for catching it. Amazingly, I had literally recast when I got another bite, this carp being much bigger. Again, my friend netted the fish for me, and gently unhooked it, checking it was okay before I took a photo. Beautiful fish, around 8lbs. We slipped it back into the water, and off it swam… Lovely.

I had a seriously funny turn then, feeling like I was drunk. My friend said it was an adrenaline rush after catching two carp so closely together. I definitely felt weird, and had to sit down with his daughter for a while, until I felt more myself… Composure regained, I cast out once more, as I had seen some carp under the deck near the bank, and I was determined to catch one more. They eluded me on one side, so I switched over to the next deck, casting under a tree… Success! My third catch in two hours, another beautiful carp around the 8lb mark. I had a hat trick, and was so happy.

Before I came home yesterday, my friend very kindly gave me some of his much older rods, reels, hooks and weights. We stripped the reels and rewound them with new line. I was very touched by this incredibly kind gesture, as my friend knows of our current financial position, and always helps out when I visit them, be it a takeaway, day tickets or, on one occasion, some fresh coffee to take home. I feel truly blessed to have such a good friend.

I never really thought I’d get into fishing, as it seemed a bit alien to me, but after this weekend, I am hooked (!). The sense of peace at the lakes, allowing me to remove myself from everything is wonderful. Catching fish is a wonderful way to unwind, and I look forwards to learning more about this relaxing past time, and the beautiful creatures at the heart of it.

Carp number 3
Carp number 3
Carp number 2
Carp number 2